This next installment of the Female Founders series features Leslie Appleton-Young, the former Vice President and Chief Economist of the California Association of Realtors and Co-Creator of WomanUP! With years of experience and a wealth of knowledge, Appleton-Young is an influential force in the industry, advocate for women, and role model for many Click the play button to watch the video in its entirety or check out our other Female Founders interviews on Union Street Media’s YouTube channel.

Leslie Appleton-Young’s career in real estate started after graduate school. She was living on the East Coast and working at places like the Federal Reserve Bank and a Rhode Island consulting firm when she decided to move to California. She applied to a newspaper ad for a research analyst, thinking “well I can do that” and was hired by the California Association of Realtors® in 1984. The rest is history. 

After being in the industry for nearly four decades and watching it change over time, Appleton-Young notes that “it’s a whole new world now.” Reflecting on her early experiences, Appleton-Young says there was a “you do what you’re told, you color within the lines, this is the way it is” expectation, especially for women. That is, up until she joined the California Association of Realtors®. 

At the California Association of Realtors®, Appleton-Young recognized that in order to learn and grow, you must “question the foundation of what you’ve been taught.” She credits her boss, CEO Joel Singer, for being the mentor she needed to help her grow and flourish. 

Appleton-Young also credits “all these incredible women in this industry that are very successful” that have given guidance and support to her and others. Seeing the value of having women as role models and of hearing the struggles of women around her, she helped create WomanUP!, an initiative to support and encourage women in the real estate industry. As Appleton-Young recounts, she’s “been going to ‘ManUp!’ conferences my whole life.” It was time to change that. 

Appleton-Young also deeply appreciates being part of, and speaking at, a conference that highlights women’s voices, because it indicates that “progress is being made.” “It’s been very exciting to see the response,” she says, and “to slowly start to see the needed change a little bit.” Seeing and hearing successful women talk about what’s possible and inspire others to follow in their footsteps “makes a huge difference.” 

Good leadership is also necessary to elevate women’s voices in real estate. Appleton-Young believes she’s been very lucky. “I’ve never felt that anyone looks at me and says ‘why does CAR have a female Chief Economist?,’” she says, adding “I have always felt incredibly embraced by our membership.” 

As for what makes a great leader, Appleton-Young says, “you’ve got to be comfortable with people being upset with you, with people not getting what they want. That isn’t talked about enough.” She also goes on to say that “a good leader will not waste a crisis. A good leader will leverage the ability that people are showing themselves how quickly they can change and how new needs can be met with new tools and just want to leverage that going forward.” 

As one example, the California Association of Realtors® quickly responded when the COVID pandemic began, creating a microsite with daily and weekly updates on the market, as well as several hotlines. Member participation was high right from the start. “It’s an incredible thing that we were able to do,” Appleton-Young notes. She believes the real estate industry has always had the tools necessary to adapt, but lacked the motivation. “Now this has been the motivation,” she says.

“When we look back at 2020 I think there will be silver linings and this certainly has been one of them –  the acceleration of the adoption of tech tools that made sense during a pandemic.”

— Leslie Appleton-Young

An essential rule of thumb for Appleton-Young is to always use data to make decisions. She believes decisions “can’t be based upon opinion” but also, “it doesn’t mean that experience doesn’t count.” Despite having a lot of experience herself, she still believes that looking at the data is necessary to reveal what’s actually happening. You don’t know what’s happening until “you put all the pieces together,” Appelton-Young states. She humbly credits her team for making the vast data compiled and analyzed by the California Association of Realtors® easily digestible for agents to use and send out. “We’ve been on a tear to take all that data and make it actionable, make it valuable, and make it fill the purpose of making our members the experts –  the local market experts,” says Appleton-Young. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been many changes. The California Association of Realtors® has been continuously downloading statewide MLS data every night. They’ve also pivoted from calculating closings, new listings, pendings, and averages each month to every week, and even every day at times, because of how fast things have been changing. Even with all of that, Appleton-Young is modest. It takes time to become an expert and Appleton-Young says “there’s room for everyone” looking to get into the industry, adding “there’s no one way to do it.”

To learn more about Leslie Appleton-Young and the California Association of Realtors visit:

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